There’s a really good story in one of the more obscure books in the Bible about people coming back from years away from their homeland. When they get home, the first thing they begin to re-build is their place of worship, which had been destroyed many years before. They started with the place to gather and get to know God. Not houses, not stores, not banks, not even gas stations (or in their case, hay stations for their horses and donkeys). Nope. They started with the central place where they could learn more about God, offer their gifts, and come away knowing they had been blessed by the presence of God when they came together with others in their community.
After the foundation was laid, they began to sing and shout with joy. The older members of the community, who still remembered what it had been like to worship in the temple before it was destroyed, began to weep. While some of those tears may have been sadness for their loss, mostly those tears were ones of joy for renewed hope in the future.
For most of human history, people centered their common life in the place of worship. Generally, it was the only real gathering place in the community anyway, and it served many different purposes. Above all, it was the place to offer transcendence, i.e., a place to ponder eternal things, become more aware of the holiness of God, receive mercy as was needed, and find strength and encouragement to go and build just societies.
These are almost strange concepts in a world that is driven by consumption and personal satisfaction. But without time taken to worship God and seek both mercy for ourselves and a more just society for all, we risk losing one of the defining points of being human: an awareness that the world is much larger than we are and that we have responsibility to live faithfully to a larger moral order. Otherwise, we forget God and our world collapses into the horror of pure selfishness. That, my friends, is one definition of hell. And it is horrible to contemplate.
This Sunday, January 20, we will officially break ground on the lovely 10 acre plot of land between NorthStar Bank and Blanche Dodd Intermediate School. We’ll dismiss the 11:0012 noon. Everyone is invited to join us, and bring your own shovel when you come. Let’s dig the hole that will be the start of the foundation for this space of holy gathering and community action. Just like those folks in that obscure book in the Bible, we’re going to shout with joy and laugh and perhaps even weep as a long held dream starts to come true.